A baggage handler who fell when he was attempting to reef a container out of a Boeing 767 aircraft at Cairns airport and fell backwards onto the loading platform to injure his neck, has got up with a substantial damages win.
Ed Fisher, 49, had an excellent employment record initially with Telecom and then and as a Qantas baggage handler. He intended to continue that work until retirement and was a physically fit 3-4 times a week jogger, who swam regularly and played competition touch football.
The accident happened in February 2011.
At the contest in the four-day Cairns trial, was the extent of a T12 crush fracture. Orthopedists Cook and Winstanley concurred as to 5% impairment but the former considered him to have been, pre-accident, completely asymptomatic.
He had, in fact, presented to his GP in 2006 and at Cairns Hospital for upper limb numbness, in respect of which he was provisionally diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome. To make the most of this, Qantas also called Steven Goode, occupational physician, whose evidence Judge William Everson considered to be “somewhat partisan”. Goode “readily conceded that he does not treat orthopaedic complaints” and thus the views of Cooke and Winstanley were preferred.
No longer working as a baggage handler, His Honour accepted Fisher as a “stoic and committed long-term employee.” The court accepted he had “remained essentially asymptomatic” from the pre-existing symptomatology and was healthy enough to pursue demanding pursuits like gold prospecting (4-5 times a year), camping (regularly) and off-road biking.
Netting $1,100/week at Qantas on the accident date, he has since struggled, averaging just $200/week (net) as a tourist coach driver. The court accepted these figures for his damages formulation, resulting in a future loss of earning capacity of $150k out of a total award of $225k.
Qantas’ appeal against the number of damages awarded was dismissed.